Primary season kicks off proper this Tuesday, and a slew of pro-Trump candidates have traditional and centrist GOP members worrying that the widening divide within the party will impact the party’s ability to fend off renewed Democratic competition in November.
Tuesday will see residents of Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina head to the polls, and each state possesses its own Trumpian threat. Indiana features three infighting GOP Senate candidates who are only unified in their praise of the president. They’ve even implemented his use of kitschy denigrating nicknames.
North Carolina will feature a battle between Charlotte pastor Mark Harris and pro-Trump incumbent Robert Pittenger over who can help Trump drain the swamp better in what remains the most advantageously drawn district map for conservatives in the country.
Ohio features a gubernatorial primary that centers on the repeal and replace of the centrist policies of former presidential candidate, outgoing governor and prominent Trump opponent John Kasich. Even the Lt. Governor, and former Kasich running mate, Mary Taylor has swung further right as the state’s Republican population has skewed towards the rhetoric and practices of the Trump wing of GOP politics. Though the state’s Republican party has taken on more of the Trumpian identity, Kasich’s former chief strategist John Weaver warns of the strategy’s ineffectiveness in that face of Trump’s performance and approval ratings. “You may think it’s wise in a primary to handcuff yourself to the president … but when the ship goes down, you may not be able to get the cuffs off,” said Weaver.
The most dire situation has to be in West Virginia, where former coal mining executive Don Blankenship, fresh off a prison stint for hiding safety violations that led to an explosion that killed 29 miners, is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate. His business practices aside, Blankenship has increasingly attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently, referring to him as “Cocaine Mitch,” for creating jobs for “China people” and taking millions of dollars from his wife Elaine Chao’s “China family.” If that wasn’t enough, he also directly referred to Chao as a “China person.”
Blankenship’s unapologetic racist attacks have conjured support among Trump supporters despite the president asking his constituents in the state to not vote for Blankenship because he wouldn’t be able to win in November. Trump pointed to the failed campaign of Roy Moore in Alabama as an example in a tweet.
While conservatives struggle to decide which sect of the party will define the 2018 midterm election cycle, Democrats are delightfully taking it all in as they prepare their own efforts to flip the majorities in Congress. Many Democrats point to the president’s low approval ratings nationally and specifically among independents as a key tipping point as they challenge for seats in areas that Trump won two years ago.
While flipping the House is the more feasible accomplishment, both Congressional bodies are at play, and the Democratic party feel they have the candidates, support and funds needed to accomplish their goals. The splintering of the Republican party, even when Trump pleads with his supporters to quell such a movement, is just another break the impending blue wave caught.